Serving by Grace

by Sarah Langness

Remember that lesson I was learning about servant hood and that servant heart? I’ve found myself in situations this week yet again where that has been tested. Where my desire to have a servant heart has been challenged. Where I’ve learned even more about how selfish I am and how much work my heart needs.

And you know what else I have learned this week about being a servant?

It’s not something I can do on my own. Not on my own strength. Not by my own will. Not by my own power.

Only through Christ can I serve when I am exhausted and crabby. Only through Christ can I love as He has called us to love. Only through Christ can I have the grace to respond as He would respond.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13, NASB (emphasis mine)

So not only have I been praying to be a servant; but I’ve been praying for the grace to be a servant. When those trying moments come, when I am crabby, when I am simply exhausted — I’ve started asking the Lord to give me grace. Grace to show to others so that I can be a servant.

Praise God we don’t have to do this stuff on our own!

Filled With Joy

by Sarah Langness

You know what I love? I love the sound of my baby boy’s giggle when he rides on his daddy’s shoulders. I love the pure joy that lights up his face after I round the kitchen island in a game of peek-a-boo chase. I love hearing him make truck sounds as he pushes anything with a wheel. As a mom, hearing those sounds – as well as the countless other babbles, screeches, and songs – fills my heart with joy. I never get tired of it. And I can’t help but think that maybe the Lord feels the same way.

Maybe the same joy that I experience as I watch my son explore, giggle, learn and grow is the same joy that fills the Lord’s heart as we follow Him – as we truly follow Him. As we put feet to our faith. As we love on those who go unnoticed. As we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

I know we don’t do good deeds to earn God’s favor. We can’t earn our salvation based on the number of times we made Him smile. His love for us isn’t based upon such things. But I can’t help but think His heart is filled with joy as we carry the love of Jesus to the world. As we live as His hands and feet. As we obey even when it’s difficult.

So, how about we put a smile on our Father’s face today?

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth . . .” – 1 John 3:18-19

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

A Call to Serve

by Sarah Langness

Sometimes I get it. I get why Jonah said no. Why he ran in the opposite direction from where God had called him to go. It’s certainly easier. Until that big fish came along. Then ‘yes’ may have looked a whole lot better than ‘no’.

Over the past two months, I have been challenged in regards to my service to Jesus. Since becoming a mom, my involvement in the youth ministry and related activities at church has drastically plummeted. Everything seems to start at 7 pm, which is highly inconvenient when that’s the time you start the bath water and begin winding your little man down for the night. So I really struggled with what I could do, how I could have some sort of outreach.

And then, at one of my MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) meetings, there was announcement about a training for those involved in leadership or who wanted to become involved in leadership. I told the Lord that if that was something He wanted me to do, He was going to have to send someone to ask me to be involved.

Guess what? Yep. I was approached. I was asked to consider serving.

My excuses to say no were abundant. But so too were God’s exhortations in Scripture to say yes:

God, this service isn’t one of my strengths .And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ . . . When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

God, I get asked if I’m still in high school. I look young and feel too young and inadequate for this. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness . . . show yourself an example to those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

God, I like my comfortable schedule, routine and way of life. This will probably throw a wrench in that.Can’t I just say no? If I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

God, are you really sure you want to use me“Christ Jesus our Lord . . . has strengthed me . . . He considered me faithful, putting my into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” (1 Timothy 1:12-13)

For some reason we think we have to have it all together before we serve. That we can serve only in the areas where we feel gifted. That we aren’t good enough. That someone else could do it better. We forget that the Lord will equip us when He calls us. He will be our strength when we are weak. He is good and because of His goodness, He uses flawed people like us.

And really, it’s not about us anyway is it? It’s all about Him.

“‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.'” – Matthew 5:16 (emphasis mine)

Gifts For His Glory

by Sarah Nelson

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;  the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8

Like many of you, I have served as a Sunday School teacher, VBS coordinator, director of church Christmas plays, as well as in several other “church lady” roles.  Also like some of you, I am a Mom. In all of those capacities, I have encouraged, urged, and yes, I’m sad to say, even shamed some children (including my own),  into doing “their” part in church and Sunday School.

The error of my ways hit me full and center when God blessed me to be the mother of some little ones with special needs and challenges.   Memorizing long lines, being in front of a congregation of grown-up faces, and being dressed in itchy costumes didn’t just cause jitters, it caused full fledged anxiety.  Required singing by the Sunday School children on a monthly basis at one church slowly grew a fear and a dread in some of my children of going to church.

A few years ago a thought occurred to me –  Do we ask adults or rather, tell adults, what they will do to serve at church?   Do we require someone gifted in administration, but not with musical ability, to sing a solo?   Do we demand that someone who is more at home serving in the church kitchen, design and create new church banners?   Of course not.  If we did, we would soon see hurt feelings, frustration at not being able to use the true gifts God intended us to use for His glory, and eventually a possible exit from the church.

A simple solution we as a family and church began using was to have our children serve where they are gifted,  and not where we wanted or thought they “should” be.  One child designed and printed our Christmas program bulletin, two served as ushers, those with musical and acting abilities shared them generously,  and another child helped with props and scenery for a program.  We gradually saw a love for working within the church body return.  More importantly, they began to serve God and others with JOY, because they were exercising their God given gifts.

Have you like me, put the pressure on others to perform rather than serve within their giftedness at church?  If so, we have a gracious and forgiving Father ready to forgive us from those mistakes and to make us sensitive to the needs of others.   Have we unintentionally put a sour taste in the mouths of our children and teens as to what church is, rather than allowing the sweetness of unity and working together to be a welcome memory as they grow older and mature in their walk with Christ?  Again, our Father is more than able to forgive us for the past and plant a new desire within us to build up rather than to (even while not knowing it) discourage others.

As a body of believers, we need to encourage one another to discover the gifts God has graciously given to us.  We need to use those gifts corporately for the body to function as a whole, in a healthy and Christ honoring way.   Today let’s use our God-given  abilities and talents along with those given to our brothers and sisters with JOY  – for His glory and honor!

Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife – Day 30

Pray that the Word will be her counselor, and that she will serve the Lord with gladness,
and encourage others to worship with a joyful, surrendered spirit.

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

Your testimonies also are my delight;
They are my counselors.  Psalm 119:24

Taken from Revive Our Hearts

Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife – Day 22

Pray that she will serve others with God’s agape love and encourage them with His
wisdom and compassion.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  Gal 5:13

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Phil 2:3-4

She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.  Prov 31:20

Taken from Revive Our Hearts